TL; DR: Some people in the fight for equality would prefer those of privilege not fight for them. Others disagree. I support equality, but I only fight that fight on the one front I am qualified to do so.
I have lived a life of privileges. White privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, cisgender privilege. I do not feel guilty about my privileges. I do not hate them or wish I did not have them. I just wish they weren’t privileges. I wish they were inalienable human rights. But they are not. And it is a long hard fight to get that to change, if it even can.
I see a lot of people from various equality groups telling those of privilege that we have no experience with a nonprivileged point of view and that without that experience we are not qualified to help them in their fight. I do not agree with this PoV, but I do understand where it comes from. I do not know what it is like to be black or a woman. I do not know what it is like to earn pennies on the dollar compared to my peers. I do not know what it feels like to be denied this or that because of my skin color or my sex organs. I have privilege. I do not have the same stakes in the fight. I am not able to fight the good fight like a woman can for her own bodily rights. I cannot fight with the same zeal as a black man for a safe neighborhood for his family. I stand beside these people and I will support them with all my heart, but I will not fight for them. Some of them do not want me to, and I respect that.
Now, I also do not know what it is like to be beaten to a pulp for my sexual preference or my gender identity. And there are people with the LGBTQIAP+ community that feel the same way about those with privilege fighting along side them.
So, why don’t I just support them, without fighting along side like I do for other fights for equality?
Because I am a part of that community. I always have been, even when I was posing as a “straight ally”. I’m sorry I lied about that in order to maintain my privilege. Now that I’m out, I wonder if I will lose some of the privileges I enjoy…probably not, because where I fall on the various spectra is pretty darn close to the “norms” of society. But that is why I’ve fought so hard and so long for “Gay Rights”…because I wanted to keep my privilege after Coming Out.
Maybe I’m “doing it wrong”. I don’t know. I support a color, gender, preference aware equality. I do not want anyone to be “color blind” but I also want the laundry list of things that are currently considered *-privilege to no longer be privileges, but to simply be human rights.
So today is National Coming Out Day. A day to celebrate coming out. Whether you are Bi, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Transgender, or even just as a Straight Ally.
I’ve been a “straight ally” for years now. But it’s time to be open and honest about who I am and what labels most closely fit my own preferences.
For many of my friends, I doubt this will be at all surprising. For those of you who are shocked, surprised, or amazed; well, you really shouldn’t have been.
First a few facts that I think everyone knows:
- I am married to woman.
- We have 6 wonderful children together.
- We are monogamous.
- I have a man-crush on John Barrowman.
- I’m not gay.
- I live my day to day life as a cisgender male.
Now the facts that you probably didn’t know:
- I’m bisexual.
- I’m not confused.
- I’m not greedy.
- It’s not a phase.
- I don’t really fit into any specific gender label, the closest though would be “gender fluid”.
Well, that’s that then, isn’t it? I’m “OUT”. I don’t have to hide any more.
Well, mostly. As far as the gender binary thing goes, I’ll still live day-to-day presenting as a cisgender male, because 99% of the time, that’s who and what I am. Those other times when I feel more feminine, or gender neutral, or simply “non-conforming” … well, I won’t be afraid to be who I am at the moment, when those moments allow me to express.
I won’t live in fear of “being found out” because I’m OUT now. I may live some new fears that I never had while I was hiding as a white-privileged, cis-privileged, straight-privileged, male-privileged person … But, I know that I still will have all of those privileges almost all of the time.
So, really, nothing will change in my day-to-day life. I’ll still be married. I’ll still have 6 wonderful kids. At most, I’ll give myself permission to be a little more flamboyant when the mood strikes.
This is a follow-up to the anti-rape culture blog post. Wil Wheaton has a slogan, “Don’t be a dick.” My friend Patrick Schwisow (@PSchwisow on Twitter) had a blog post entitled “Don’t be a Chet.” Bill & Ted say, “Be excellent to each other and party on!”
So why is so damn hard for people to do these things? There are a few things that really get my dander up and all of them revolve around simple Human Rights. Sexism and the rape culture we live in is one I’ve already blogged about. This post is about bullying in general, but especially as it pertains to the vast LGBTQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning) community.
Some back story first. When I was growing up, you were either straight, gay, or confused, as far as society was concerned. Being gay was “wrong.” Being straight was “right.” Being confused just meant that you hadn’t been with the right straight partner yet. These were the values I saw around me every day. I was straight, all my friends were straight, everyone in my family was straight. Except that isn’t the actual truth. One of my friends was gay. He was in the closet, and may not have even realized it himself, but he was definitely effeminate. We teased him a lot, it was what we did. My great-uncle was gay. My family glossed over this just calling his partner his “friend.” Other types of bullying were prevalent while I was growing up as well. One friend was quite poor and while he was extremely intelligent, he had very little in the way of social skills. He was teased mercilessly being called gay (he wasn’t) and stupid (he wasn’t) and just being the butt of a lot of jokes. Another friend was a little overweight. He was teased for being fat and slow and dumb and gay. I was above average intelligence, and a bit socially awkward, and less than average income. I was teased for being a dork, geek, nerd, and dweeb. I was also called gay or queer more than once. Even in our little circle of friends we would tease each other and some got picked on more than others. I was a bully and I was bullied, we all were, inside our group and from without. We were taught by the example of those around us that this is just the way things are.
I was bullied by those around me, outside that little group of friends more than from within. And I probably teased those within more than the rest did. It was my way of trying to separate myself from them, and to be more like the popular kids. I wanted so desperately to just fit in. I wished on many occasions to just be a straight C student, to have more money, to dress better, to be good at sports, just to fit in with the cool kids. The cool kids who were the worst bullies of all. So, since I couldn’t control my grades or parents’ income, or sports talents, I joined them by being a bully to my actual friends. They (the “cool kids”) still would not accept me as one of their own, of course. They still teased and shunned me, treated me as an out cast. My actual friends, however, still accepted me, despite the bullying. Of course, inside our circle, we thought of it just as “boys will be boys” and “good-natured ribbing.” And we all did survive, and we all did grow thicker skins for it. That which did not kill us made us stronger…
But what if it had killed one of us? What if the teasing had gotten so bad that one of us had committed suicide?
Teasing and bullying is not something to be condoned or expected. It doesn’t make everyone stronger. I may have survived it, but there were several times throughout my life where I did consider suicide as a better alternative. I’m only here today to tell my story because I was too chicken to go through with it. I was not brave enough to slash my wrists or hang myself. I didn’t have access to a gun. I was too afraid that I’d fail and that pain would’ve been even worse. I did OD on over the counter medicines a few times. Once I just slept for a day or two. Once I wander the town in a daze that I don’t remember. I did crawl halfway out of my window to jump once or twice, but I lived on the second floor, so it was rather pointless. I did try to choke myself, but without the conviction of a rope, I started breathing again when I got too tired to hold on. Some of this is a part of my battle with depression and some was my battle with bullying. The two went hand in hand. Each fed into the other and made the whole thing stronger and spiral down.
I’m not bullied any longer, for the most part. I do still suffer from depression and the weight of the years is getting heavy. I keep dragging my past around with me and it just keeps accumulating.
I don’t know where this post is heading and I’ve strayed off the intended course, so I’ll wrap up with a reiteration:
“Don’t be a dick!” “Don’t be a Chet!” “Be excellent to each other!”
Ok. This is an open letter to every person on the planet. It is gender biased, written by a cisgender, straight, white male and directed primarily at the same. However, the message applies to everyone, regardless of gender, sex, preference, race, creed, or color.
You might find yourself wondering before you get to the end why I am so passionate about this subject. I can’t explain it easily, but suffice it to say that every year I hear the horror stories coming from women about their conference experiences. The stories I hear come from tech conferences and geek/fandom conferences. The most recent story I heard was from someone I’ve never met in person, but we’ve talked a lot online and I consider her among my friends. I also am a father of 4 girls and 2 boys. I don’t want to raise them into a rape culture. I do not want my sons to be a part of the problem and I don’t want my daughters to be statistics or victims. (And, honestly, since rape can happen to and by any gender, the reverse is also true. I don’t want my children to be rapists, enablers, victims, or statistics.) So I get rather enraged when I see behavior that does not adamantly condemn rape culture.
TRIGGER WARNINGS for BDSM, rape and similar concepts.
So iOS devices can’t run Flash. Newer Android devices cannot run Flash. Flash will not be supported with upgrades on Android. Can we just all, as web developers and designers, just agree to never use Flash again? Let it die?
Are the HTML5/CSS3 specs solid enough and implemented enough that we can do all that fancy stuff natively? I have seen some amazing HTML5 demonstrations.
As we move closer and closer to the reality that the Web is not consigned to desktop interaction alone, we should design all of our web sites and web applications in a Mobile forward manner. I sat through a few sessions at php|tek 2012 about the Mobile Web. Everyone said the same thing…Do not design a desktop site and scale it back for mobile. Instead, design a mobile site and scale it up for desktops (with an intermediate tablet scale.) To me, designing for mobile first also means Flash should go away. Completely. Die.
Honestly, I’ve never liked Flash anyway, but I’ve been quite grateful for some of the apps that were built with it. But the time has come to scrap them all and rebuild them with the newer technologies. Sadly, the biggest hurdle to overcome is <video>. Video is where Flash is still used very heavily. Designing a site to use HTML5 <video> is a lot more complex than just dropping in a Flash player, but honestly, even that was never easy. You had to use <embed> and <object> and reuse your params and some params weren’t supported on some browsers…HTML5 <video> is a little more daunting, because even after you do the setup for the various implementations of HTML5, you still have to use a Flash fall-back….WTF?!?!?! Why can we just let Flash die?
I say we make a stand. I say we send a message to the browsers companies, that we demand properly implemented HTML5 rendering! No more fall backs! No more fail-safes! We need to design only to the highest *current* versions of each browser. We need to stop worrying about browsers that are, by all rights, obsolete. We demand satisfaction!
If only it really were that simple, no? But it’s not. The client wants there site to usable by everyone. Even people who still use IE6 for crying out loud.
This rant brought to you by the fact that I hate making my front-end dev work a sloppy mess just to make everyone happy.